Archive for the ‘surgery’ Category

End of the Tunnel
October 10, 2012

I saw my endocrinologist this morning…this on the heels of an appointment with my primary care physician on Monday. Both went very well as did the visit to my oncologist a few weeks ago. In fact, it appears I didn’t need that thyroid gland anyway. ūüôā He says my synthetic thyroid levels are spot on perfect. My cancer markers are also within the normal range. And, my general health is excellent. I don’t have another medical appointment until January. Well, unless you count the mammogram in a couple of weeks.In just a few days, I will celebrate my 3 year cancerversary. It was shortly after that diagnosis, in 2009, that I began my first blog, Cathy’s Tunnel It was established for the purpose of sharing my journey through the dark and winding tunnel of breast cancer treatment. That, of course, evolved into this blog, Beyond Cathy’s Tunnel when I finally completed my year and a half of treatment. This one has helped me through the struggles of moving from cancer patient to cancer survivor. But, I’m finally there. I have finally reached the stage of cancer survivor – no longer a cancer patient.

I was just looking back through some of my early posts and I am blown away by some of the things I went through. I guess it’s kind of like labor – it erases itself from your memory once it ends. I was so naive going into this. I remember when a PET scan done when I was two treatments into the strongest phase of chemo showed possible thyroid cancer and I had to stop chemo to have my thyroid removed. My greatest concern was that I would have to go back and start chemo over and go through those two treatments over again. That isn’t how it works, thank goodness, but I didn’t know and I was devastated by the possibility. And, I was also concerned about whether or not they would let me wear my hat in surgery or if I was going to have to go in, bald headed. Oh, the memories.

You will never know how much I have appreciated the love, prayers and support of all of you during these difficult years. It has helped to carry me through. But, it’s time now to move on. I’m not dissolving my blogs, but I am ending my regular posts. It has long been my dream to write a book and, it is the pursuit of that dream that will now consume whatever free time I may find for writing. Should something come up that I feel deserves blog publication, I will still do so and those of you who have signed up as followers will receive an email alert notifying you of that post.

And, hopefully, if that book is ever published, it will find an audience just as these blogs have. My sister, Susan, shared this quote with me when I was writing my first blog. She thought it sounded like me. I hope that is true. “She not only saw a light at the end of the tunnel, but she became that light for everyone who knew her.” Anonymous I can’t imagine a greater compliment.

I thought I would share a final photo tribute to the journey through the tunnel. Hope you enjoy. And now, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” Henry David Thoreau


pre-cancer at the ocean

pre-cancer at the ocean

My Race For the Cure Team – First Year

crossing the finish line first year – just barely

40th anniversary dinner at Hunans

at the lake, sans hat

many, many hours clocked in these chairs

last treatment

met Ali from Biggest Loser

celebrating end of chemo at South Padre – back to the ocean

2nd Race for the Cure – Honorary Chair

on scissor lift to spray paint banner

Kelli and Brett’s wedding

enjoying a dance with Ken

dropping the puck at Pink in the Rink

riding the zamboni at Pink in the Rink

zamboni ride, Pink in the Rink, 2011





Yes, It’s True…Men DO Get Breast Cancer!
April 7, 2012

This is something you can’t afford to not read. It is a story that few have heard.


Shame on Her
January 23, 2012

On occasion I have mentioned another blog that I read fairly regularly. It is written by a woman diagnosed with breast cancer just a few months before me and whose situation¬†has paralleled¬†mine very closly…up until now.¬†Awhile back, she found that her cancer had metastasized to the liver and in late fall, she had liver resection surgery. It was a very difficult surgery and she was struggling to recover when she developed c-diff…a serious infection of the colon. Like me, she had a weight loss problem, which, upon contracting c-diff became life threatening. As of her last post, she was down to 90 pounds.

She was recounting these problems on her blog and mentioned that her doctors and her nutritionist had her eating some things that most would not consider healthy options in order to gain some weight. Another member of the blogging community picked up on that and actually posted a comment on her blog, basically accusing her of causing her own cancer by eating processed foods instead of healthy organic options.

Think about that. There are two things that virtually everyone ever diagnosed with cancer immediately wonders…am I going to die?…what did I do to cause this? Seriously? To basically intrude on¬†this woman’s blog and blame her for her own situation is unthinkable. And, she didn’t stop there. She added an inflammatory post about this seriously ill woman on her own blog. She does not allow comments on her own blog so there is no way for anyone to even refute what she said. I am going to paraphrase it because I refuse to lend credence to it by quoting her and having to post a link to my source.

She suggested that, had the woman with cancer chosen a diet of fresh organic leafy green vegetable juices & fresh organic fruit juices as opposed to chemically processed crap and sugar she probably would not have developed cancer in the first place. She also went on to add, and, this part is nearly a direct quote but I copied it off of the cancer patients blog, not hers, so I don’t feel guilty not crediting her…I give up on stupidity & stupid people. If this chick thinks she can recover well from her recent surgery, the C-diff, & cancer in general by eating bon-bons, there’s nothing I can do or say to change her mind. If someone in this condition thinks that Fannie May & Progresso will make life all better, I wish her well.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news but “well” is the last thing she’s going to be, eating shit like she’s eating. But why should I care? I dunno… I’m a sucker for stupid people, I guess.

Really? Stupid is as stupid does.

Point – According to anything that I have seen written by the woman with cancer, she thrives on a diet of fresh, healthy nutritious foods. She was unable to digest many of these things when her colon became dangerously inflamed and they had her eating whatever she was able to tolerate that would prevent her from losing any more weight.

Point 2 – While there are certainly theories on various foods, etc, that may possibly increase a person’s risk for developing cancer, there is currently no proven evidence that dietary factors of any kind contribute to the development of breast cancer.

Point 3 – Of course, doing your best to eat healthy and live a healthy lifestyle is important. Who would disagree with that? But, if eating organic, green leafy vegetables was all that was required to prevent cancer, would cancer be as rampant in the world as it is today?

Point 4 – What business was it of that misguided blogger anyway? What right did she have to lay this guilt trip on a seriously ill woman and to perpetuate it by broadcasting the same to everyone in her own blogging community?

Cancer patients are all too familiar with the blame game. As I said, when diagnosed it is very common to search yourself and wonder what you might have done differently to prevent this from happening. I know I did. And, like it or not, those around you have a tendency to want to blame you as well, though, hopefully, not this openly. Why? Because if you can convince yourself that the person did this to themselves, you can lessen the fear you secretly harbor, that the same thing could happen to you.

Resist the urge, people. Thank goodness most people would never behave as this thoughtless blogger did. But, it is sometimes easy to make a thoughtless comment or to question someone’s lifestyle or habits without even thinking about how this might come across to them. Trust me when I say, you don’t want to go there.

Shame on you, thoughtless, un-named blogger, for the injustice that you heaped on this woman and indirectly, on those of us in a similar situation who were unfortunate enough to read your comments as well. Shame on you!


January 5, 2012

Have you noticed that the new Weight Watchers marketing campaign is BELIEVE? They just launched this at Christmas time and, I’m pretty sure, they got the idea from me. ūüôā Or not. But, I have been using that since I bought the new Christmas decor for my office. Remember? ¬†I love the industrial look of the tree. And, I love the simple, understated message. When I came back to work after the holidays, I took it down. When I got home, I set it on the table and later noticed that it wasn’t there. I figured that Ken had already wisked¬†it up and put it away since he had put all of the other Christmas decorations away right after Christmas. Turns out, he had moved it into our home office and set it on a shelf. He really likes it too and feels that it has year round appeal. I agree. Believe has become my mantra. And, believe is what I was doing this afternoon as I pulled up to Siouxland¬†ObGyn for my appointment.

I had decided several weeks ago that 2012 would be the year that I strive for another “B” in my life as well…balance. If this is to truly be my year, I need to find a balance that I have been missing the past several years. I need to balance work with play. I need to balance time spent helping others with time spent focusing on me/us. I need to balance my love of quiet, solitary time with more social, engaging time. I need to balance a quest for a healthy lifestyle against potentially self destructive tendencies. I need to find the Bert for my Ernie…the Abbott for my Costello…the Mutt for my Jeff…the Yin for my Yang and the Zig for my Zag. OK, enough already. You get the picture.

But, I have been unable to make any specific plans for doing these things because, once again I had pathology reports hanging over my head. They’re no longer hanging over my head. After a semingly¬†interminable wait, I had my opportunity to see Dr. Aldrich. It was a brief visit. Benign dermoid. No cancer.

That’s right. No cancer. Not at this time, anyway. I¬†am scheduled for¬†a Cancer Center appointment next week and another in February. At that point, I am really hoping that the witch hunt will end. A good friend who also has cancer says he feels like he has two lives. When he is home or at work, he feels like he is living the life he has always lived. But the minute he walks through those Cancer Center doors, he remembers he now has another life. I totally understand. But this year, I am ready to merge those two lives back into one.

I have things to do Рa large challenging project for United. A Komen Symposium for which I am in charge of publicity. A big birthday bash to plan. Fulfillment of a childhood dream Рwriting a book. And, regaining balance in my life. I have to believe that 2012 is my new beginning. I do believe. We both believe. Benign dermoid. No cancer. Hallelujah!


Eleanor Roosevelt
December 30, 2011

¬†¬†A stumbling block to the pessimist is a stepping stone to the optimist. –
  Eleanor Roosevelt

I came across this quote today and thought it was appropriate for¬† this New Year’s post.

One year ago, I had an appointment with my primary care physician. We were talking about everything that had happened since I first saw him in October, 2009, and he said to me, “Well, 2010 hasn’t been your year, but it’s almost behind you so here’s to a better year in 2011.” Is it possible that was a full year ago? Yes, it is. And no, as it turned out, 2011 wasn’t as good as I had hoped. But, it was better than 2010. The hope, both his and mine, was that all of this would be behind me by now. It hasn’t quite worked out that way. But now, it’s almost 2012. I think¬†2012 is going to be my year. Unfortunately, I won’t really know that until after my appointment next Thursday when I get the results of my pathology reports.

I have plans for 2012.¬†And, whatever the results, I will still have plans for 2012. They may just be slightly altered from what I am thinking today. What about you? Are you making plans for the new year? I’m not talking about resolutions, really. Resolutions are sometimes counter-productive. I mean thinking about what you really want to do with your life. What direction do you hope to take? What do you hope to accomplish? How do you plan to fulfill the plan for your life on this earth? How do you¬†intend to make a difference? Don’t you love the way everything seems fresh and new with the start of a new year? It’s like a clean slate stretching out in front of you with all kinds of possibilities.

We all have stumbling blocks that come along while we’re making our way through life. For me, the past several years,¬†it’s been health issues. For some, it’s been job loss or other financial issues. For others, personal tragedies. It’s not what happens along the way…it’s what you do with what happens along the way. I had planned to sound out some of my plans and goals for the new year¬†in this post but after the unexpected surgery, decided that might be jumping the gun.¬†I’m recovering well and went to work for a partial day today. While I’m really feeling quite optimistic about the results, I also recognize that stuff happens. It just does. I know. I’ve been there before. So, as we get ready to sing Auld Lang Syne once¬†again, I am putting the details on hold. Know, though, that, like the rest of you, I am looking forward to the New Year and will share some of my thoughts once I know whether or not I will have to make some modifications. If there is another stumbling block, so be it. I will do everything I can to turn it into a stepping stone.

Hope I don’t have to, though.


And More Peace…
December 23, 2011

Just woke up and immediately recognized the incredible warmth and softness of the down comforter on our bed. That’s right. I made it home…same day. As I turned, the discomfort of the three incisions caught me off guard, but it’s OK. The fact that I now have some pain to fight through just means that the surgery is now behind me.

I checked in at 5:30 as instructed and was quickly on my way to the Same Day Surgery area, which I am all too familiar with. As soon as I walked up to the desk, the lady in green went over and pulled a blanket out of the warmer and said you’re in room 14. You can take everything off and put on that lovely gown. That was so deja vu. I won’t go into the details, but the whole overwhelming experience of my first surgery came flooding back. It was better this time, though, and there is no point in taking the time or energy to go back there.

Once you’re changed into hospital garb, the process starts. Lots of people start showing up and everyone wants answers to the same questions. Then, the IV…the dredded IV. This time, she asked if I was allergic¬†to Novocaine. The plan was to numb the area so that putting in the IV would be less uncomfortable. Sounded like a good plan, but, let me tell you, that Novocaine shot HURT! It did the job though, and not only did I not feel her put in the IV, she got it in on the first try. Beautiful. IV – check. After that, it was pretty much just a waiting game. The doctor had to stop in to mark the side for surgery before they could take me back. Finally, she poked her head in, black marker in hand. She pulled back my gown and wrote “yes” on my right side. I know…in the midst of all the technology, she took a black marker and wrote yes on my right side. Kinda crazy. Then, into the wheel chair and off to surgery.

That too, was deja vu. I’m not sure that it was the same room I’ve been in before, but they all look pretty much the same. They drag out a step stool and have¬†you climb up onto the table. Blankets…warm blankets, PLEASE! It is so cold in there but they quickly cover you up with the warm blankets which feel so good. I’m sure they remove them again once you’re out, but it feels good at the time, anyway. They start the drug dripping into the IV. Have you ever been through this? It BURNS. Seriously. It does burn but within seconds you’re out, leaving them to do their thing.

The next thing I knew, I was in recovery and they were calling my name telling me to wake up. COLD! I’m always cold, but the cold following surgery is something I can’t even explain. This time they had something different, though. I wasn’t even really awake but I could hear them telling me that since I was so extremely cold, they were going to put me in the warming chamber. Not sure even what that is. She explained that they would remove my gown and put me in this warming thing. Just part of the “forget any thoughts of modesty or propriety…this is the hospital world”. And, I didn’t even care. I started warming up. Blessed relief. But, still couldn’t wake up. Every little bit they would try again…Cathy – open your eyes. I would struggle to open them and then close them again. I could hear them talking to and working with people around me, but, was, again, on the outside looking in…or listening in. I couldn’t wake up. Others left recovery and I stayed there. They gave me morphine for the pain and I started feeling dizzy and nauseous. They backed off on that. Finally, I managed to leave my eyes open for a bit and even converse. They prepared to move me back to Same Day Surgery. I think I had my eyes closed the entire way and within moments, we were back to room 14 and she was talking to Ken and Michelle. She asked me if I was ready to get up and move to the recliner. I said no. (what can I say?) She said, at least you’re honest. ūüôā I sat up and was extremely light-headed but managed to get repositioned in the recliner. I know at some point, they gave me a Vicodin but the next several hours are a blur. I slept…for a long time.

They tried to get me to eat some Jello, but, by the second bite, I was nauseous and set it aside. Later, they tried toast and I was able to eat a few bites of that.

As undignified as this sounds, another of their big concerns is that you get up and pee. I know, I know. But, that is hospital speak. So, I figured if I had any hopes of getting out of there, I’d best get up. They had been pumping fluids into me since about 6 AM so I figured that couldn’t be too much to ask. I told the nurse I was ready and she unplugged all of my wires and cables and helped me up. She gathered up my gown to keep it closed when I went out…fortunately, it was about 16 sizes too big so that wasn’t difficult…and told me she had me covered. Hospital speak…that’s how they roll. It was a bit more difficult than I anticipated, but I was soon able to tick that off the list as well. Then, it was just one more set of vitals, get dressed and wait for my paperwork. We were sprung a little after 2.

I laid down on the couch as soon as I got home and Ken went to get my meds. I fell asleep and slept until about 6:30. When I woke up, Ken said he had gotten a text from Kelli and they had stepped up their schedule to foil the snow storm and they would be here about 6:45. What a great “coming home from the hospital” gift. They got here and we had a great evening catching up.

So, I’m trying to stay off of the Vicodin¬†today so that I can stay awake. I can deal with the discomfort and may do Vicodin before I go to bed again tonight, but for now…

For the next several days, my job will just be to rest, heal and enjoy my family. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I can’t believe that. I didn’t mention before that the surgery went well. She told Ken and Michelle that while she was in there she looked around at other organs…specifically the liver…and as best she could see, everything looked OK. On January 5, I will have a follow-up appointment and get the official results of my pathology reports. January 5…the first day of the rest of my life. Special thanks to John Pehrson for being with me both before I went into surgery and for stopping back later to check in. That meant a lot.

Again, Merry Christmas everyone.


December 21, 2011

Twas the night before…

After all of the waiting, this is it. Surgery tomorrow. Check in at 5:30. Surgery at 7. I had a pre-surgery consult on Tuesday so lab work is done. EKG is done. Paperwork, done. I’ve even been wearing my hospital bracelets for two days.

Silent Night…

It’s¬†pretty quiet in the house tonight. We have everything ready to go for the holidays and for tomorrow. I know we’re both thinking about it but we’re not talking much. I’m nervous. I was really blind-sided by this and it threw me for a while. But I’m at peace, finally.

And, that is what I wish for all of you this holiday… Peace. Love. Hope. And, the best of everything in the New Year. You all mean a lot to me. I could not have asked for¬†more supportive¬†family and friends during these past two years. By this time tomorrow, it will be over and I will be able to spend several lovely, relaxing days with family. I’m really looking forward to that. Hope you are all able to do the same. Merry Christmas.


The List
December 18, 2011

WOW! What a busy couple of weeks. Being a person obsessed with organization, when I found out I would be having surgery just days before Christmas, I made a list…a big list comprised of several sub-lists. I had “things to do”…”gifts to buy”…”menus for the holidays”…and a grocery list. And, as of this evening…

Christmas gifts bought – check. (Thanks, Michelle, for your help.)

Gifts wrapped – check. (Thanks Ken & Keisha.You helped a lot.)

Menus planned – check.

Food bought – check.

Advance food prep where possible – check.

A bit of baking – check.

Out of town gifts & greetings mailed – check.

Company Christmas party – check.

House cleaned – working on it.

Stockings stuffed – check.

A few things left to do before Thursday, but, all in all, thanks to my helpful husband, we’re pretty ready.

Still, I have this nagging¬† feeling of sadness. Not bad.¬†Just a little. It comes over me when I hear Christmas music or overhear¬†people making¬†big plans for the holidays. I think I feel a little like I’m on the outside looking in again this Christmas.

But, it¬†was a spirit booster¬†to make our annual¬†drive through the Presbyterian Living Nativity tonight. It’s a truly special presentation of the reason for the season. Thanks to all who give of themselves every year so that the rest of us are able to slow down and become grounded in the beautiful reality of the Christmas story. It’s like a mental cleansing.

And now, the countdown begins. Thursday morning, 5:30 AM, at Mercy.


The Flip Side
December 5, 2011

I didn’t mention it the other day, but last Friday was a rare look at “the flip side” for me. Ken was scheduled for a colonoscopy and, as I drove him to Mercy, I couldn’t help but think of the unlikely yet foreboding possibility that, given the circumstances, there was a slight chance that, within the week, we could both find out that we had cancer. I didn’t expect it to happen…just recognized that it could. How odd to see him lying there in that bed. What? That’s my spot. I’m the one who is always being tested, probed, stuck, etc, etc. But not that day. As they wheeled him out for the procedure, I was the one who had to nervously fill the time as I waited for the doctor to come in and give me the results. It’s difficult and I so appreciate all of the time he has spent doing that for me.

Hurray! Excitement and relief flooded over me as Dr. Hartje¬†finally walked in the room with the good news. Everything is good. No tumors. No polyps. All clear. I had subconsciously been thinking about the fact that it might be my turn to take his hand and walk that journey with him. But, I’m SOO glad that will not be necessary. No cancer for Ken.

And, now, we flip back to the other side. I spent the better part of the morning at Dr. Aldrich’s office…exam, Pap, blood work, sonogram. In a nutshell, she’s relatively certain that I do not have Ovarian Cancer because she has never seen Ovarian Cancer on just one side. Still…the tumor needs to come out. So, once again I am scheduled for surgery. On December 22, she will remove my right ovary and also do a uterine biopsy to make sure there is nothing else going on. December 22…two years after I had my first chemo treatment.

As I¬†sat in the exam room waiting for her to come in, I couldn’t help but notice the piped in Christmas music and think about how I am spending yet another Christmas working my way through this journey. Last December I remember blogging about viewing the changing seasons through the windows in the chemo room at the Cancer Center. At that time, it was hard for me to believe that I had experienced all¬†four seasons from that chair and that¬†it was my second Christmas in the journey.¬†¬† ¬†¬†¬†¬† Now, it will be my third.

OK.¬† This just pushes my opportunity to move on, back a little. But, I still believe the day is coming when this will all be behind me. The journey has been a bit longer than I ever anticipated but I’m still moving forward. I truly believe that 2012 will be my year.


Gotta Have a Plan
November 15, 2011

So, I had a chance to catch up on the blog I referred to last time and here is where that is at. She is out of the hospital. The surgery was successful. They found, however,¬†upon examining¬†the portion of the liver that they removed, that there was a spot of cancer that had not shown up on either the PET scan or the sonogram. The good news is, they removed that part of the liver. The bad news is, now she has to worry about the same being true for the part of the liver that was not removed. But, there is no way of knowing today, so life goes on. She started chemo again on Veteran’s Day. And, as odd as this may sound, she takes comfort in that fact. Surgery is over and now she has a plan. For however long, she will be receiving drugs to kill any cancer cells that may remain. They believe that she is cancer free…but, still. And, they will do PET scans every three months. No guarantees, but, it’s a plan. And, to her, mentally, she is miles ahead of where she was several months ago when she found out that the cancer had metastasized but had no idea what they were going to do about it.

My “third time’s a charm” friend met with the Radiologist today. For WEEKS he has known that he has cancer again, for the third time, but has not known what they were going to do about it. He said to me today, “We have a plan.” You have no idea how comforting that is when you are going through the cancer experience. Without a plan, you know that this toxic thing is inside of you and it doesn’t belong there and you just want them to move forward and kill it, in one way or another. But along the way, they have to run tests, do consults, weigh the options and through all of that, you have no plan. It is amazingly disconcerting. But, today, they have a plan….a three phase plan. Been there, done that. It’s something to hang your hat on. They’re going to do this, this and this. And, that will hopefully take care of it.

My heart goes out to these two people and to another friend whom we just learned is having open heart surgery today. It’s tough. But, they’re not alone. The band Ken plays with, on Sunday, did a song with these words…

Never once did we ever walk alone…Never once did you leave us on our own. Comforting.